What matters to us

On the School Committee, Greg will be a force for dynamic changes. He has worked cooperatively with young people, community groups, teachers and administrators in the City for the last 20 years and knows what is needed: Learner-centric decision making, equitable out of school programming, and replacement of MCAS with mastery learning.

If you'd like to watch Greg explain his positions further, check out the 2021 Somerville Ward 7 School Committee Candidate Debate hosted by the Democratic Ward Committee, the Somerville Educators Union School Committee Forum (starting at 56:39) and the Our Revolution Somerville School Committee Candidate Forum.

In addition, you can read Greg's answers to the Somerville Educator's Union Endorsement Questionnaire, as well as the Our Revolution Somerville Endorsement Questionnaire.

As the election on November 2nd comes up, this page will be updated with write-ups, videos, and conversations featuring Greg's detailed thoughts on issues relating to education policy. Both Greg's TedXTalk and blog are helpful in further understanding the ways in which he thinks about education.

Learner-centric
decision making

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us.”

 

Youth voice must be heard, not only to influence the policy that affects them but to train our students to be active participants in our democracy as they grow.

Youth voice is the key to better results. We have a vibrant diverse population here in Somerville that can be called on to create a more effective, impactful school system. From my experience, many of our residents who have immigrated from other countries do not feel comfortable participating in School Committee meetings. Having translators at community meetings is insufficient. Meetings can and should be streamed, recorded, transcribed AND translated. But that is not enough.

 

I pledge to work with, and through, young people and their families.

 

Since college, I have studied and worked for a robust democracy. Currently an active member of the Transparency is Power campaign with Act On Mass, I am deeply committed to open deliberations, inclusion, and diversity of stakeholder input. I will shorten formal school committee meetings and insist on focused rule making. Executive sessions should be rare. Open engaged working groups of teachers, students, and community members should replace or augment formal school committee sub-committees. Novel methods of participation such as YouthStream in the Mystic should nurture and amplify student voice.

 

If elected, I will work to make youth voice a central element of every decision we make by:

  • Establishing a West Somerville, youth-led, decentralized, autonomous organization as a model for citywide engagement and restorative justice.

  • Creating physical and digital teen centers where youth voice and culture can thrive. 

  • Supporting native language social networks and events where English is secondary.

  • Using surveys, focus groups, and school assemblies to generate student voice.

  • Reducing the number and length of formal school committee meetings. Recording, streaming, transcribing, and translating all formal meetings.

  • Ensuring the School Committee sets priorities and holds the district administration accountable for specific measurable results.

  • Creating less formal, project-based, working groups where school committee members can work with teachers, students, and community members to solve problems together.

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Equitable Out-of-school programming

Privilege is endemic in child rearing. Children raised with poverty enter school disadvantaged by unstable access to nutrition, cramped or unsafe housing space, and reduced exposure to books and words at home. While our teachers do a good job catching young people up during the school day, 80% of their awake time in a normal year is not in school. That is where the real equity gap emerges. If I am elected to represent Ward 7 to the School Committee, I will work to make equitable access to out-of-school-time programming a top budget priority.

Learning, like eating, is something young people need to do year round to grow into healthy adults. In the last three years, as President of the Somerville Education Foundation, we raised and distributed over $300,000 to help provide more equitable access to out-of-school-time programming and wrap around support services. I would prioritize funding in the budget for:

  • Increased access to year round, high quality out-of-school-time programming and wrap around support services including:

    • Common registration, scheduling, communication with translation for City, district, community groups.

    • High-intensity, small group tutoring and paid near-peer tutoring.

    • Connecting high schoolers and recent graduates with apprenticeships, internships, as well as help with jobs.

  • Increased pay for SPS employees who provide direct student support such as paraprofessionals and family liaisons who are paid below what they should be.

  • Peer mediation and restorative justice programs in every school.

When it comes to diversity within the elementary and middle schools, large differences are apparent throughout the city. The Brown School and the Kennedy School are 64% and 69.4% white, respectively. Meanwhile, the East Somerville Community School is 69.9% Latinx. People can incorrectly blame schools for segregation when residential patterns are typically the root cause. So long as unregulated market forces segregate housing by affordability, the schools near the young people that live in those homes will be segregated as well. We need to build affordability into every neighborhood to preserve diversity and mitigate the impact of gentrification.

 

I would also support a district wide review of enrollment and school assignments. I would prefer a plan that achieves better balance and preserves freedom of choice to select the school that best fits. This could be accomplished by re-configuring two schools to host expanded middle grades programs and varying the remaining elementary schools by magnet themes.

replace MCAS,
commit to mastery

Several years ago, I thought that MCAS should be fixed, not replaced, and wrote an essay explaining my thoughts. I laid out a detailed analysis of the problems with MCAS and the changes that should be made. Since then, no significant changes have been made and it's time now to replace MCAS with tests that are more worthwhile, useful, authentic, and fair.

 

None of us should be against some common testing. Whether for COVID or achievement, common testing exposes the stark inequalities in our residential patterns and situations. Poorer residents tend to test higher for COVID and lower for achievement. Still differentiated outcomes are significant and common tests can provide important data that should not be ignored.

 

A core problem with MCAS is that it does not deliver timely nor instructionally significant results. The same test cannot practically be used for both accountability and instruction. 

 

The problems with assessments run far deeper than that. One would never give one of your own children a letter grade to sort them as better and worse than another, yet that is exactly what we still do with letter grades in schools. While it may be true that a student receiving an A is likely on track for achievement, little can be interpreted from a student receiving a B or a C. As teachers all know, lower grades are usually driven by lower attendance and failure to complete work outside of school due to lower economic home stability.

 

If I am elected to represent Ward 7 to the School Committee I would ask to serve on a teacher-led working group to help transition towards mastery-based learning. In my professional role as an education consultant, I have seen schools make this mode of assessment and learning work to the benefit of all.

 

This will take time, professional development, and systemic change to calibrate equitable expectations for all learners. We must move beyond assessment and grading systems that rank learners and perpetuate caste inequalities. Our communication with learners and their parents should be based on evidence of mastery and mindful of individual growth. For more than 25 years, I have worked to create learner-centric data that empowers learners and respects teachers' knowledge and skills. I want to make this true in our City of Somerville.